Domestic violence is a continuing problem in Florida, as it is across the nation. Sections 741.28-741.31 of the Florida Code define domestic violence as any kind of assault and/or battery, simple, aggravated or sexual, perpetrated by one family or household member against another that results in the victim’s physical injury or death. Domestic violence also can include stalking, false imprisonment, kidnapping, or threats of physical harm or death.
“Family or household member” has a specific meaning and refers to any of the following:
- Spouses and former spouses
- People who presently cohabitate or who have done so in the past
- People who are related by blood or marriage
- People who have had a child together, whether or not they are or were married
Domestic violence behaviors
Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, but women are by far the people most subjected to this form of violence. The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence explains that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior engaged in by the perpetrator against the victim for the purpose of controlling her and/or gaining power over her. While most people tend to think of domestic violence as physical harm, it can take many additional forms, including the following:
- Psychological and emotional abuse
- Using the victim’s children against her
- Harming the victim’s pets
- Exhibiting extreme jealousy and possessiveness over the victim
- Demanding that the victim participate in unwanted sex or sexual practices
- Isolating the victim from friends and family
In addition, perpetrators often control their victim’s money, medical access and/or medications, and prevent them from leaving their home. They also often threaten to commit suicide if the victim leaves them and invariably minimize their continuing destructive behaviors.
Duties of law enforcement officers
Florida law mandates that any law enforcement officer who responds to a domestic violence call must do the following things:
- Assist the victim in obtaining needed medical treatment
- Advise the victim of domestic violence centers where she may receive services
- Give the victim a written notice of her legal rights and the remedies available to her
The law enforcement officer(s) may use their own discretion as to whether or not to arrest the alleged perpetrator. However, if they choose not to do so, they must file a written report describing any injuries they observed and their grounds for not arresting anyone.